The Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul has an in-depth look today at the county suffering the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the entire state of Colorado. It’s not Weld County, whose disproportionate death rate during the ongoing pandemic has made for a cruel backdrop to the political posturing of the area’s conservative elected officials against basically every necessary albeit economically painful step that has been taken to slow the spread.
Today, the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Colorado is in neighboring Morgan County, also on the Eastern Plains. And here’s their story:
In Morgan County, where outbreaks of the disease at a meatpacking plant, a dairy processing facility and a nursing home have pushed the count of COVID-19 cases to 439 and killed at least 21 people through Wednesday, the rate of infection is more than three times that of Denver. [Pols emphasis]
The situation has become so dire that county health officials are using a refrigerated trailer to store the bodies of the dead because local morgue capacity has been reached. The trailer was put to use the day after it arrived in Fort Morgan, about 60 miles southeast of Greeley…
Morgan County’s infection rate is 1,540 per every 100,000 people. In neighboring Weld County, which has been hard hit by the virus, the rate is 632 infections per every 100,000 people, compared with 512 for every 100,000 people in Denver.
Like Weld County to the north and west, Morgan County is represented in Congress by Rep. Ken Buck, and Buck’s highly conspicuous votes against coronavirus relief bills while scoffing at basic protective measures like wearing a mask have already made him nationally infamous. But in the Colorado Senate, Morgan County is represented by Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg–another rural Republican politico who has frequently been the subject of derision for saying things that don’t age well.
That sums up Sen. Sonnenberg’s March 26 guest column in the Colorado Springs Gazette:
What if you are the employee, especially an employee who isn’t in the vulnerable population nor living with others who are? Will the consequences be worse than the virus?
We now have a shortage of resources, scared citizens, and a police state in which the government controls every aspect of our lives. The coronavirus has created conditions that could fool our younger generations into thinking that communism seems like freedom; at least with communism people were still free to leave their homes! [Pols emphasis]
As for the relative danger of the COVID-19 pandemic,
Dr. Sen. Sonnenberg had this to say:
Last year there were over 34,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the flu. In 2009 H1N1 killed more than 12,000 Americans. Each and every year there are 35,000 deaths in car crashes with another 2+ million injured! But we didn’t shutter the economy over those health challenges, nor have we banned cars. Isn’t there a better response to this SARS-CoV-2 threat than a police state on the verge of martial law?
The very next day, March 27, Sen. Sonnenberg signed a letter from most Republican state senators excoriating Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order:
When Coloradans from across this state visit your office’s dedicated COVID-19 website – covid19.colorado.gov – they are met with data indicating that 44 out of 64 Colorado counties currently have fewer than five cases of the virus. [Pols emphasis] Understandably, the data you have been presented within private briefings with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is most likely more comprehensive, but that data has not been shared with the public or with our caucus. With the Denver metro area already under a “stay at home order,” what is accomplished by closing down the business activity and daily routines of Coloradans living in a county that has fewer than five cases of COVID-19 after weeks of dealing with this crisis?
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg was far from alone in his wholesale disregard for the threat faced by his constituents in the early stages of the pandemic. All but two Colorado Senate Republicans signed the letter to Polis bemoaning the fact that most counties, which were at that time generally beet-red rural counties represented by safe-seat Republicans at every level, had “fewer than five cases” of the virus.
But like Ken Buck, Jerry Sonnenberg’s extra effort to disparage steps to control the virus looks more like deadly negligence as the pandemic rages through the heart of his district, as in Weld County killing in numbers disproportionate to urban areas of the state. The same urban areas Buck and Sonnenberg claimed Gov. Polis was imposing a “police state” from that wasn’t needed in the countryside.
Today we know the truth: Ken Buck was wrong. Jerry Sonnenberg was wrong.
And we are learning of their error the worst possible way. Their constituents are dying.